Fighting Fireplace Dangers

Posted at 5:30 AM, Dec 29, 2015
and last updated 2016-07-04 11:54:06-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) -- It's that time of year when more and more people are using their fireplaces. But if your fireplace and chimney haven’t been inspected recently, it can be an accident waiting to happen – even if yours burns gas instead of wood.

What you need to know to keep your family safe in this Angie’s List report.

Ashley Eldridge has been sweeping chimneys for decades, so poorly maintained fireplaces don’t surprise him.

"I’ve seen dampers installed backwards. I’ve seen fireplaces that were incapable of functioning properly," said Eldridge, a member of the Chimney Safety Institute of America. "Most of the fireplaces are not actually built the way that they should be built. The smoke chamber should be very smooth as it leads the smoke into the flue, and it’s a rarity to find that done properly."

That’s just one reason to have your fireplace inspected and swept, whether it burns wood or gas.

No matter what kind of fireplace you have, you should have it cleaned and inspected every year. This includes gas fireplaces. Even though they don’t get soot and creosote build-up, they do have other issues that need to be attended to," said Angie Hicks, founder of Angie's List.

Ceramic logs, for example, can deteriorate and the debris can clog vents, which could spark a chimney fire.

Moisture is also a major concern. It could lead to cracks that affect the ventilation system, potentially letting carbon monoxide in your home.

"Water entry is the single biggest problem, whether you have a masonry chimney or a factory-built chimney, so we want to be sure that water isn’t entering into the chase of a factory-built chimney or into a masonry chimney for that matter," said Eldridge.

And check your gas shut-off valve. It should be on the outside of your fireplace, but many are not.

"If something goes wrong, you don’t want to reach inside. If you do have yours in that location, hire a plumber and have it rerouted to a safer spot," said Hicks.

Experts recommend annual inspections and hire a certified chimney sweep.

An inspection and sweeping should take between 60 and 90 minutes and cost between $100 and $300.

Remember you can catch the latest Angie's List report every Tuesday morning on WTXL Sunrise.